It’s been quite a year politically hasn’t it? We didn’t get the General Election result we were hoping for which has meant big challenges in parliament. But none the less the Brexit negotiations have made important progress and Theresa May continues to lead the country valiantly in extremely challenging circumstances.
The NHS remains under great pressure. But we have also had some good news this year. The respected independent American think tank the Commonwealth Fund once again voted us the top healthcare system in the world, and we continue to deliver dramatically improved outcomes in most major diseases including cancer, where survival rates are at a record high.
However winter is a particularly challenging time and all our thoughts will be with those working on the NHS frontline as they continue to do an exceptional job looking after many vulnerable people in the coldest time of the year.
Within South West Surrey, it has been another busy year. I was of course thrilled to be re-elected but am very conscious of a number of local issues that urgently need resolving.
The news that Haslemere Post Office was closing its doors was understandably met with much disappointment and anger. I immediately contacted Group CEO, Paula Vennells and met with her to understand more on their plans for the site. Fortunately we were able to agree an extension to the planned closure until June 2018 to allow the Post Office to look at other plans for the town centre and/or enable the community to work on its on solution. Discussions are on-going but there are a couple of interested parties who are assessing the commercial opportunities so hopefully one way or another we will retain a Post Office in the town centre.
Also in Haslemere, a shadow was cast over the Wey Centre at least in terms of trying to secure the facility and ensure its future. Things here are also progressing and I am confident something positive will be announced in the New Year.
A concern for many in the southern part of South West Surrey has been stroke care. The decision was made to treat stroke patients at a specialist, dedicated HASU (Hyper Accute Stroke Unit) the nearest of which for us are in Frimley and Chertsey. This was taken based on proven stats showing that those treated in HASUs recover better than those who were not. However given the distances involved people have understandably been worried about ambulance response and journey times under the new arrangements. I therefore had a number of meetings with Daren Mochrie, the CEO of SECAMB (the ambulance service) to monitor what is being done to make improvements. They have had particular challenges and are currently in special measures, but I am clear that if the NHS proposes service changes it must make sure there is proper access to those new services.
Rather frustratingly in Farnham the congestion and pollution reducing scheme which would see part of the town becoming pedestrianised or at least become shared space, has met a few delays. The good news is that there is considerable on-going dialogue between local Councillors, Surrey County Council, Waverley Borough Council and local business experts so things are happening and on the whole, support for such a concept is strong – it is just taking a little longer than hoped. The plan is still to hold a public consultation once a viable proposal has been finalised. As soon as there is something to say I will let you know but on balance I do think it is worth securing a consensus behind any new plans and that does take time.
A major new project I am championing locally is that of a Wrecclesham Relief Road. A tragic accident, several incidents and number of near misses have led to the community coming together to try and get something done to improve road safety in the area. I have already had meetings with residents, Highways England, Surrey Highways, Councillors and my colleague and neighbouring MP, Damian Hinds to look at what can be done in the short and longer term to reduce the startling number of road traffic accidents. Some measures have already been introduced such as clearing overgrown verges which will make walking on the paths easier. Other plans involve moving road signage to make it more visible and introducing new traffic calming measures such as a new mini roundabout. But the only real, long term solution, is the introduction of a relief road especially given the increase in traffic due to the huge development at Bordon. So the next step is to get the relief road costed so we can figure out the best way to campaign to get it funded.
Progress too has been made with Thames Water and its sewage works in Monkton Lane. The unpleasant odours that residents and shoppers at the nearby Sainsbury’s have had to endure on an all too frequent basis seem to have finally gone. I am meeting the Thames Water team again at the end of the year to tie up a few final issues.
In Godalming, We had an amazing, sunny 3rd Para Games – revamped and rebranded as the Surrey Para Games in July.Thanks must go to COINS Foundation and The DFN Charitable Foundation for their unwavering support. So too a big thank you to Rachel Morris MBE who opened the event for us again this year despite having undergone major surgery. (Glad to say she is well on the mend now and will be even more involved in 2018). Next year’s event is already in the diary for the 4th July with more Paralympians taking part and a greater range of sports. We also plan to have a closer relationship with local sports clubs and schools to try and engage more youngsters in the run up, during and after the day. More details to follow as plans progress…
Also in Godalming, the final design details for the £3.8 million flood scheme defence were presented to residents.
Positive feedback meant that after a few final tweaks, works will begin in the New Year helping to safeguard the homes of residents and businesses in the town.
Broadband issues continue for some residents in our constituency and I do sympathise with these individuals (mine is not great either!) But the good news is that these areas of slow and unreliable speeds are becoming rarer I am pleased to say. That said, I continue to lobby hard for Dockenfield, parts of Churt & Hindhead and the odd pocket in South West Surrey. If you have issues please let me know.
My constituency visits this year have been many and varied throughout the whole of South West Surrey. They have included: St Peter’s and St Polycarp schools in Farnham, St Edmunds Primary in Godalming and the FOCUS school in Hindhead. I have also met with some of the numerous, amazing charities we have in the constituency who do some brilliant work. I am privileged to have met with Helping Hands, Leonard Cheshire Disability, The Prostate Project and Spectrum Space amongst many others.
On the home front, our three children continue to grow up fast and keep us on our toes…Christmas is not what you could call our quiet time of year! But it is a very happy time.
Thank you again for all your support this year. I hope you have a lovely Christmas and a very Happy New Year.